President Preckwinkle Launches Small Business Assistance Program for Suburban Cook County

Photo of gathered dignitaries launching the Small Business Assistance program

COOK COUNTY—Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller, Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison, Illinois Representative William Davis, the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, and Next Street, today announced the launch of the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery: Small Business Assistance Program, a business advising, education, and grant program designed to help small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy and employ thousands of our residents,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Direct financial support and strategic guidance is a necessary measure to assist small businesses trying to survive through this pandemic. In addition to our $10 million loan program, I am pleased that we can now offer an additional $12.6 million in grants to businesses.”

Recent estimates from the program coordinator, Next Street, project that Cook County businesses will need an estimated $510 million - $1.28 billion in the first year of COVID-19 recovery, with $267 million - $671 million of that total necessary for business owners of color.

“We experienced a 53% increase in demand from small businesses for our counseling services when COVID-19 struck the region,” said Emilia DiMenco, President and CEO of the Women’s Business Development Center. “Small businesses needed help accessing relief funding, putting new operational plans in place, and making strategies for moving forward. With the Program’s support, we can provide more of that needed advising and funding, especially to women and minority business owners, for whom access to relief funding is critical to maintaining economic self-sufficiency.”

The Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance program will offer business advising throughout Cook County and grants to suburban Cook County businesses.  Small business grants for up to $10,000 will be available to approximately 1,200 businesses in suburban Cook County whose sales have been reduced due to COVID-19.

“This Program provides both financial assistance coupled with a robust network of over 35 organizations in both the city and the suburbs dedicated to providing support to small businesses. Our community’s recovery will take dedication and participation from the public, private and philanthropic sectors,” said Economic Development Bureau Chief Xochitl Flores. “Through the combined efforts, resources, and collaboration with business leaders and philanthropic leaders in our community, this effort is helping us close the gap and provides support for small businesses to come out stronger.”

The Program offers small businesses the following:

  • Optional educational webinars to assist small businesses in repositioning their business towards recovery
  • One-on-one business advising, or technical assistance, to help small businesses address their unique needs resulting from COVID-19
  • Standardized curriculum, intake, and other impact measurement tools to ensure continuous program improvement and consistent impact reporting and accountability
  • Cook County Recovery grants of up to $10,000 for businesses that have seen losses due to COVID-19 in suburban Cook County and the unincorporated areas


“Next Street is thrilled to be a part of this incredible partnership to support Cook County’s small businesses through their recovery, and beyond,” said Charisse Conanan Johnson, Managing Partner of Next Street. “The partnership underscores the belief that ‘we are better together,’ our mantra used to galvanize us since the beginning. The Program’s collaborative model is like ones we have launched across the country and provides a tangible solution to the challenges affecting black and brown businesses across Cook County.”

“Small businesses drive economic empowerment and wealth building. Data from the Association for Enterprise Opportunity suggest Black business owners have up to 12 times higher net worth than Black nonbusiness owners. Now more than ever, small businesses are struggling. As we have learned with the Fund for Equitable Business Growth–a multi-funder collaborative that enables partnerships between business support organizations–coordinated, culturally competent and outcomes-driven support are central to addressing the needs ​of small business owners,” said Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust. “We applaud Cook County for making this commitment to increase the capacity of service organizations and support entrepreneurs with much-need capital."

For more information about eligibility and program requirements, if you are a Small Business located in either the City of Chicago or suburban Cook interested in receiving business advising, or you are a Suburban Cook County small businesses interested in recovery grants, go here to apply and get information:

The Program, which is part of the Cook County Community Recovery Initiative, was founded through a partnership between Accion, Chicago TREND, Chicago Urban League, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Next Street, and Women’s Business Development Center, with funding provided by Cook County and The Chicago Community Trust’s Fund for Equitable Business Growth, with specific funding for this Program from the Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and the Polk Bros. Foundation.

This collaborative COVID-19 Recovery Program also establishes a precedent for a coordinated, systems-wide approach increasing the capacity of business service organizations throughout Cook County, building upon the findings from the Assessing Chicago’s Small Business Ecosystem Report, which led to efforts such as the Chicago Inclusive Growth Coalition and the Fund for Equitable Business Growth.

Participating organizations include organizations across four categories: 1) Program Coordinator: Next Street, 2) Lead Business Service Organizations: Chicago Urban League, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Women's Business Development Center; 3) Supporting Business Service Organizations: Accion, Berwyn Development Corporation, Chicago TREND, Cook County Black Chamber Corporation, and Southland Development Authority, and 4) Referral Partners: Aurora Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, Chamber 57, Chicago Heights Economic Development Corporation, Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation, Economic Strategies Development Corporation, Far South Community Development Corporation, Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce, Ignite Technology & Innovation, Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, Illinois Restaurant Association, Indo-American Center, Mid-South Business Association and Resource Center, Mujeres Latinas En Acción, Next Level Northwest, Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Rogers Park Business Alliance, Schaumburg Business Association, Somercor, Southwest Collective, Sunshine Enterprises, and YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.

To receive updates on COVID-19 via text message, text ALERTCOOK to 888-777.


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